Funding supports new canoe-kayak launch on Cedar River State Water Trail

Canoeists and kayakers next year will have an easier and cleaner way to launch their paddling trips on the Cedar River State Water Trail, thanks to a project supported by the Austin Area Foundation.

Austin Area Foundation recently awarded a $2,000 grant to the Cedar River Watershed District for creating a walk-in access behind Austin’s Marcusen Park baseball stadium, located on the Cedar River’s north side.

The launch could span up to 36 feet of the shoreline with a crushed-rock surface and rip-rap rock likely used on each end to protect it from washing out during floods.

The CRWD-led project is being planned in partnership with the city of Austin, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Austin Vision 2020 Waterways.

The grants will cover the cost of materials for the launch, whose size will better accommodate groups of paddlers seeking to start paddling at the same time. Its slope with a rocky surface also will allow for safer and less-muddy launches onto the river.

The city’s engineering department will design the access site and provide those designs to the DNR next year to construct the launch in late spring or early summer.

The DNR could build the access in about three days but when the project begins and its duration will depend on weather and the river’s water levels, said Joel Wagar, DNR’s parks and trails area supervisor.

The AAF is excited to help move the access forward, Executive Director Jeff Baldus said.

“This project is a prime example of local entities working together for the good of the community,” Baldus said. “Each gift to the Austin Area Foundation – no matter how small – when combined with many other gifts is transformed into something far greater: the capacity to support and nurture the entire community.”

The Austin Area Foundation will help enhance the community through the water-access project as water recreation on the Cedar River State Water Trail has been increasing in recent years, said Tim Ruzek, CRWD outreach coordinator and member of Vision 2020’s Waterways Committee.

The project also would not be happening without the commitments from the city of Austin and the DNR, he added.

“Marcusen already is a popular launch site on the Cedar River but it needs a much better setup,” Ruzek said. “This will be the first of more projects to come on the river to address the need for better walk-in access sites in and out of Austin.”

Started in summer 2015, Cedar River Canoe & Rental Service of Austin, owned by Brian and Dorothy Pirmantgen, saw a major increase in canoe and kayak rents in 2016, including out-of-towners.

They frequently use the Marcusen shoreline for launching paddlers but have experienced problems due to the site not having a dedicated access.

The DNR, CRWD and the city of Austin also will work in 2017 to add signage at various spots in the community to promote the locations of water-access sites.

In 2011, CRWD worked with local state legislators Sen. Dan Sparks and Rep. Jeanne Poppe on gaining legislative approval on designating the Cedar River as Minnesota’s 33rd State Water Trail. The DNR then launched the Cedar River State Water Trail in spring 2012 with water trail maps, webpages and crew floats for finding navigational hazards.

The CRWD continues to lead a volunteer Adopt-A-River initiative to clean up garbage and other non-natural debris from the Cedar River and other local waterways. Much of the 25-mile Cedar River State Water Trail has been adopted by volunteers since the initiative’s launch in 2011, leading to many tons of garbage and flood debris being removed, including more than 1,100 tires, from the Cedar River in Mower County.

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